Wednesday, June 3, 2020

"Downtown Train" by Patty Smyth

Song#:  3153
Date:  06/13/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  95
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  After breaking through with her band Scandal, Patty Smyth decided to go out on her own and pushed out a solo album titled Never Enough. The title track was the LP's first single and it did well at Rock hitting #4. Over on the Pop chart, the song had a tough time and could only manage a #61 showing. To follow it up, this next track was released. Unfortunately, it barely got out of the gate getting to #40 at Rock while only spending a couple of weeks at the bottom of the Pop chart. A third single, "Isn't It Enough," would do a little better at Rock hitting #26, but it failed to make the Pop chart. The album would end up being a modest seller reaching #66. Smyth would have better luck with her second solo effort.

ReduxReview:  At the time I wasn't aware of Symth's single and I hadn't hooked into Tom Waits yet. So the first version of this song that I remember was Rod Stewart's hit (see below). Waits ended up being one of my all-time favorite artists, but for me I preferred Stewart's take even above Waits' original. Stewart made the tune more commercial friendly (in a good way) and it even felt cinematic. His reading of it was just about perfect and there was a lonely, yet romantic feel to it all. Waits' more sparse take felt more lived-in and bruised. It is also excellent, but I just prefer Stewart's dream-like take. As for Smyth's version, it basically comes off as an average rock tune. It is perfectly fine and the sax solo is a nice add, but when compared to the others, I don't get much from it. The recording also didn't have that extra commercial edge like Stewart's so it fell a bit flat on the charts. The material and potential was there. Smyth and her producers just didn't get it quite right.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by Tom Waits. It was included on his 1985 album Rain Dogs and released as a single, but it did not chart. Rain Dogs was Waits' second album for Island Records following 1983's Swordfishtrombones. Both LPs represented a shift in direction for Waits to experimental rock and have been included on many "best albums of all-time" lists. Smyth was the first artist to pick up and cover this song on record. Her version just beat another to the line. Contemporary folk/country artist Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded the tune for her 1985 debut album Hometown Girl, which was released in July of '87. She did not release the track as a single. Of course the most famous version of the song would come in 1989 when Rod Stewart's take would hit #3 Pop/#1 AC/#1 Rock. Around the same time that Stewart was recording his take, Bob Seger was also doing one. Stewart's ended up getting released first and that left Seger's record on the shelf. He would end up placing it in 2011 on his compilation Ultimate Hits. It would be released as a single and it would reach #17 on the AC chart.


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